Volume 6: The Sprinter’s Guide to Cycling Fashion
INTRO: Sprinters are the pariahs of the peleton, despised and verbally abused as “wheelsuckers,” “peleton trollers,” or worse.
Deep down though is the unspoken truth: jealousy is at the heart of the contempt…. But, being a sprinter is more than fast twitch muscles, podiums, and podium girls – it is a lifestyle, with a clear set of unspoken rules and traditions – most of which are in direct contrast to the majority roadie rule. In these next few volumes I’ll attempt capture some of them.
If roadies obsess over their equipment as their number one focus (besides training that is), clothing is a close second. Like the series of arbitrary guidelines governing group rides, sign sprints, diet, training and virtually every other aspect of roadie life, how to dress while riding your bicycle is also subject to rules of byzantine complexity. Take a sample here from a Pez cycling news report regarding “the kit” – a fancy roadie way of saying your jersey & shorts.
“The Kit. Your jersey must match your shorts, which must match your arm warmers, which must match your socks. But under no circumstances should a replica pro team kit or a national/world champion kit be worn unless you’ve earned it. The only acceptable team kit is your own club kit.”
For even more rules (42 of them) check out this post:
Here’s the thing. Roadies spend an inordinate amount of time on their bikes, thinking about being on their bikes, and talking about riding their bikes. As such it is only natural for them to create a schema of dress designed to work with their rather unique, if awkward, physiques. If roadies were insects they would be praying mantises, if they were reptiles, they would be tiny anorexic T-Rex’s: big legs, tiny little stick arms.
So, naturally, any item of clothing that would accentuate the fact that their upper bodies are composed only of bone and gristle becomes anathema. In fact, of all the rules which are subject to interpretation, there is clear unity by roadies that “one must never, ever wear a sleeveless jersey”. Also banned are “kits” (fancy word for jersey/shorts combo) that are replicas of a pro team, or really of any team you are not on or at least previously on. Also banned are any jerseys from charity rides or century rides. This is roadie elitism at its best – even though they participate in rides like the “ridiculously hilly 150” it is dismissed as mere training, because, after all, they are “racers” not some mere tourist or recreational cyclist.
Legs must be shaven, socks must be worn, everything must match, thy chain must be waxed – seriously its like a bad cult – drink the coolade but make sure its from a logo covered sponsored waterbottle – as long as it is your sponsor.
Here’s the sprinters guide to cycling fashion:
1) Wear whatever the hell you want – and with confidence. Nothing gives me more pleasure than showing up for a group ride with an old pair of non-bib shorts (shocker!), and an unmatching sleeveless jersey, a randomly selected helmet from a different kit (or none at all, which gets you immediately kicked out), and on occasion, two different gloves. More often than not I’ll have different colored tires on the front and rear and an increasingly dirty/squeaky chain to add sound to the sight. Here’s a recent ride setup:
2) Have arm muscles. It is completely useless excess weight, but it doesn’t really matter when you are drafting for 99.99% of the race, and besides, the podium girls seem to enjoy them.
3) Mix it up: on occasion, go “over the top” and out-roadie the roadies, showing up for a race or better yet a training ride in a clean kit featuring an egregious use of white including matching booties, helmet and a long sleeve skinsuit. Skinsuits also tend to be the proprietary domain of the sprinter as they contain no pockets for all the roadie accouterments of an extra bottle, Gu, team radio etc. Wearing them to practice practically dumfounds them.
For inspiration here’s perhaps the world’s greatest sprinter, Mario Cipollini, who arrived to the 1999 Tour de France wearing a toga in a chariot pulled by his team members, who won 10 stages of the tour, and perhaps closest to my own heart, pulled out of every single one of his tours as soon as they hit the mountains. Cipo was also famous for occasionally showing up disheveled and apparently hungover...
4) Never wear socks: can't have all that mushy material reducing the synaptic response between muscle bone, metal and carbon fiber during the sprint
5) Always wear shades: perhaps the only sprinter fashion rule, but with speeds so high – you gotta wear eye protection.
So, all my roadie friends, I have just one request – you know all those perfectly new century ride jerseys in your closet / dresser? Please, send them to me – I’ll cut off the sleeves, pair them with my non-bib shorts and blast into hyper-space to win the next sign sprint. And no, odds are good that I didn't pull through prior...
Until next time…